Neosho residents dog hit by school bus, family upset with policies

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

Kaden Dickens was visiting his older brother, Kelly, for his nineteenth birthday when he got a call on May 24 about his dog, a four-year old yellow lab named Stella.

“The dog got hit, my little brother was actually visiting me in Chicago for his birthday,” said Kelly. “The dog got hit on his birthday, that’s one thing that sucked. He was with me and wakes up to a phone call from his friend who’s a neighbor that said, ‘hey, the yellow lab is laying on the side of the road. We watched the school bus hit it and it drove away,’”

The Neosho School District’s policy when it comes to things in the road in front of a bus is for the driver to do their best to avoid the item.

“If the item is a stationary item in the road, the driver will most likely see the item with enough time to slow down or react appropriately,” said Neosho Transportation Director Marty Marks in an email. “In the event that the item is moving, such as a chasing dog, the driver may not have enough time to react. All drivers are instructed to do their best to slow the bus without slamming on the brakes which could cause harm to a student. Drivers should do their best to prevent swerving the bus which could then cause the bus to lose control and cause additional damage or injury. If reaction time allows, drivers will also use their horn to attempt to scare animals out of the road.”

“The driver stated that this incident happened on Norway Road which is in a rural part of the county,” added Marks. “Drivers may not always have time to react to animals such as deer, dogs, etc. which can dart out into the road without a driver seeing the animal. It is never the intention of any driver to hit any animal. The safety of our students will always be the priority.”

After the call from his neighbor, Dickens called his father, Kevin, picked up Stella.

“We took her to Joplin and they said her hip was dislocated and this and that,” said Kevin. “The only place to take her was Kansas City (for surgery), they did surgery on her hip and put her hip back in but then she was paralyzed on the left side. There wasn’t anything they could do about it. We didn’t even know about that until we brought her back to Neosho. The people in Kansas didn’t tell us her left side was never going to get better, but we didn’t know that. It was just a mess.”

After the replacement, learning about Stella being paralyzed, over $7,000 in veterinarian bills and learning that Stella had kidney and bladder failure, the decision was made to put her down.

Kelly said the reason he was upset was because the transportation department didn’t seem to care, taking the side of the driver.

“The thing is, I understand it’s not (the bus drivers) fault,” said Kelly. “The dog should’ve been more restrained. But the bus should’ve stopped. Ultimately, the bus should have stopped and called someone. But the bus just kept going. I said that to Marty Marks, the transportation director, and he was like, ‘the school district isn’t going to do anything about this,’”

“He did say that, a whole day later, that he had gotten off the phone with the driver and she was reporting that she hit a dog, or an animal,” added Kelly. “She didn’t stop and that’s what bothers me. What if it was a kid? What if it was her neighbor’s dog? It just bothers me.”

Marks confirmed to the Neosho Daily News that the driver notified dispatch upon returning to the bus barn on the day of the incident, May 24, and that the driver wasn’t certain of the owner or address of the home of the dogs and that they wouldn’t have been able to make any calls as a result.

Drivers are required to notify dispatch and the transportation office anytime they are involved in unusual circumstances. If the situation is of an immediate or sever nature, drivers are instructed to use the CB radio but discreetly as all of the buses have CB radios and students are able to hear the transmissions.

“We would not want certain types of information broadcasted over the radio,” said Marks. “For non-emergency information, drivers are to notify dispatch upon returning to the bus barn.”

Kelly added that he had asked what could be done about it and was frustrated with the response.

“Half the responsibility is on us to keep our animals contained but half the responsibility is on the person whose taking kids down the street in the bus,” said Kelly. “What message did you send to kids? They certainly felt it. (The transportation department) didn’t even care, he totally took her side. The first thing I wanted to do was just say, ‘hey I want to let you know this happened,’ His attitude pissed me off.”

“When I spoke to (Kelly), I was very apologetic and tried to explain to him that drivers do their very best to get students to/from school safely without any incidents,” said Marks. “This was very unfortunate, and it is very sad that someone's pet was harmed. As many of us have animals of our own, we spend our money, our time and emotions loving these animals. “

“The nature of the incident will affect the responsibility of the driver,” added Marks. “If another vehicle or a person should have been involved, that would have changed the required steps taken by the driver. In the event of such a severe situation, the driver would immediately stop at a safe location and call into the transportation office. The driver would then be given instructions to remain until emergency services arrive. In a severe situation, office personnel would go to the situation calling the appropriate law offices as needed.”